How to Oxidize Metal with a Hard-Boiled Egg

Dec 5, 2012

Lately I've been playing around with combining wire and seed beads in my jewelry designs and found this quick, affordable, and nontoxic way to color sterling silver wire and findings. I used to mix up batches of liver of sulfur to oxidize, but that's literally a stinky process that takes longer and leaves you with a somewhat toxic mixture to dispose of later. Plus, eggs are always handy and cheap!

1) First, I coiled up 24-gauge sterling silver wire, gathered it with a twisty tie, and taped the ends of the tie to the lid of a plastic container. This allowed me to suspend the wire over the egg. You can put the metal right in the egg, if you wish, but sometimes that can result in spots and more clean up.
2) Smash a hard-boiled egg in the bottom of the container. There's no need to remove the shell.

 

 

3) Here you can see the steam from the egg that was still warm-using a warm egg helps the process.
4) After just 30 minutes you can see the color start to develop nicely.
5) Oops, toddler on the loose--guess we'll shake the container and cover the wire with egg after all!

6) Time to wash up with everyday dish soap. Since the wire was a nice color after just 30 minutes, I could have removed it then. However, since I wanted it a bit darker, I waited over an hour before clean up. You can always use a polishing cloth to lighten the wire.

7) The result! Since you're all too familiar with how AB-finish seed beads show an amazing rainbow of color, I know you'll appreciate this finished wire's subtle hints of purple and red. Keep an eye out for how I'll use this wire in a future issue of Beadwork magazine.

This process is great for sterling silver and also works on copper (but not copper-coated craft wire or gold). For brass you'll need to use patina. When oxidizing crimp tubes, crimp covers, beads, and ear wires, I like to string them on sewing thread and then tape the thread ends to the lip of a glass jar-suspended above the egg. You can also use this thread trick when dipping items in liver of sulfur.

For more information on liver of sulfur and other oxidizing materials (as well as painting and caring for metals), check out Mixed Metals, a book I coauthored with Danielle Fox.
Have fun!
Melinda

 


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Comments

seleighe wrote
on Dec 8, 2012 6:29 AM

It's funny that you mentioned this because I was just wondering how to do something like that.  I should've realized egg would work, since every time I forget to take my silver wedding ring off when peeling boiled eggs, it turns a really pretty bronze color.

Lauzcowzgirl wrote
on Dec 10, 2012 10:45 AM

Amazingly good timing that I couldn't sleep and came across this great tip. I've been trying to locate liver of sulphur but no-one's even heard of it here in the Aussie backwoods, so knowing how a hard-boiled egg smells I boiled some up, kept the water and put some wire in - doh! it came out cleaner than before! Thanks Melinda for putting me on the right track - you've got to OPEN the egg.